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Do You Have Trouble Sleeping? – How To Go About Getting A Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep, or the lack of it, is a big problem for many people these days, so why do so many people have trouble sleeping and what can they do about it? Also why do we need sleep and how much sleep do we really need?
Importance of Sleep
We all take good sleep for granted until the time comes when we no longer have it. Then it becomes something of a luxury. When we don’t get enough quality sleep, we become very aware of its importance because we know how terrible we feel when we don’t get it.
Why do we feel so terrible? Well that’s because sleep is essential to restore and heal the body and particularly, the brain. Even minimal sleep loss can affect your energy levels, mood, concentration, memory and ability to handle stress.
There is much debate about how much sleep we need and that it can be just as bad to regularly have too much sleep as too little. The amount of sleep we need is individual, but 7-8 hours is about the right amount for most people to function at their optimal level.
Insomnia does not just appear for no reason, there is always something causing it. So what is the possible cause?
There are many things that affect our sleep and these things can include:
- anxiety and stress
- Disruption of normal sleep due to travel or shift work
- certain types of caffeinated foods and drinks
- Environmental factors (Is your bed comfortable? Is your room too hot, too cold, too light or is there too much noise from a snoring partner or the street outside?)
- other medical causes
Obviously talk to your doctor to help you identify the cause if you don’t think you know it already.
But the most common reasons for insomnia are anxiety and stress and I will reveal how we can reduce the impact these factors have on our sleep.
Anyone who has suffered from insomnia for any length of time has probably reached for prescription sleeping pills. These seem to be the answer for a while too. Sometimes for a temporary period of stress, they CAN be an answer. But they are not meant for long-term use as long-term users will be tempted to take more and more pills to get the same effect and as they become addicted, they lose the will and ability to manage without them.
Sleeping pills not only have the ability to create addiction, they can also cause:
- daytime grogginess
- disturbing dreams
- impaired driving
- difficulty breathing
- nausea and vomiting
- poor concentration
Added to this long list, if you have taken sleeping pills over a long period of time, it is possible that you will eventually have to face the challenge of getting over the addiction and as with any addiction, this will not be a work easy or nice. .
Then not too good….
So what can we do? Let’s start with the most straight forward stuff:
What To Do And Not To Do Before Going To Sleep
do not do:
- drink coffee
- eat great food
- consume large amounts of alcohol
- watch TV or make phone calls in bed
- vigorous exercise (except for sex!)
- stay in bed if you have been awake for more than an hour, get up and go to another room, have a cup of warm milk or chamomile tea. Read a book for about half an hour or do something boring like snowboarding (NOT TV!) and go back and try again. Doing these things can distract you from the worries that may have been racing in your mind and consequently you will feel more relaxed and will be able to go to sleep afterwards as a result. If you choose to read a book, read something that calms you down, a “cliff-hanger” will not have a good effect!
- have a routine, go to bed at regular time
- have a hot bath an hour before bed, the reduction in temperature after the bath prepares your body for sleep
- make sure your room is quiet and dark and if necessary, use earplugs and an eye mask
- Make sure your room is not too hot or your duvet is not too heavy, if you are hot you will not sleep well
- where possible, make sure you have a good quality comfortable bed. You spend about a third of your life (and if you live an average life, that’s 25 years!) in bed, so don’t miss out when it comes to buying one.
So, how much sleep do we need?
We have different stages of sleep and there are 5 of them as follows:
This is light sleep and you can drift in and out of this sleep and can wake up easily. The eyes move more slowly and muscle activity slows down. The brain produces theta waves.
Eye movements stop and brain waves become generally slower. There are bursts of brain activity known as sleep spindles.
Beta brainwaves make up about 50% of brain activity during stage 3 while the other 50% are slow “delta” brain waves.
The brain produces mostly delta brainwaves.
Stages three and four are the deepest stages of sleep. There is no eye movement or muscle activity
Stage 5 – REM sleep
This happens 70-90 minutes after we fall asleep and our brains are very active and that’s when we dream. Our eyes dart around but our muscles are paralyzed.
During a good night’s sleep we should have at least five full sleep cycles.
It is better to wake up at the end of a cycle than in the middle of one, so if you have five 90-minute cycles that equal seven hours of sleep, this will be better than having eight hours and the sixth sleep cycle has been broken.
If you are waking up in the middle of deep sleep, (stage 3 or 4) this can cause you to feel groggy for much of the day.
The racing mind
One of the most common factors that can cause you to have trouble sleeping is a busy or “racing” mind. Once our brain is not focused on carrying out any practical tasks, it may well decide to take advantage of the opportunity to try to solve all our problems instead, while we lie there trying to sleep.
If you find that what stops you from sleeping is that you just can’t stop thinking about your problems and what you are going to do about them, then get up, take a notepad and write them down. Once you do this, you will not have to worry that you will forget these things in the morning. Then you should be able to relax and go to sleep.
If after writing your list you still feel a little disturbed, then one of the best ways to say goodbye to sleep problems is to use meditation. If you do not know how to meditate, the information can be easily found on the Internet, but personally I would advise you to buy yourself a sleep CD or MP3 as they involve meditation techniques specifically to make you sleep and they are really effective.
Have a good sleep!
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